RedNation Online recently had the chance to catch up with Canadian International David Monsalve to discuss his recent signing with FC Edmonton. In this interview, Monsalve discusses his decision to return to play in Canada after a couple of years playing professionally in Finland, how his deal with FC Edmonton came about, what he learned from the experience of playing professionally in Europe, how playing for a Dutch Coach informs his approach to the game as a keeper, how a club like FC Edmonton benefits Canadian soccer and his experiences living and playing in Edmonton thus far.
RedNation Online (RNO): David, you recently signed with FC Edmonton. Congratulations on that. How does it feel to be back playing professional soccer in Canada?
David Monsalve: Thank you for congratulating me. It feels good to be honest with you. It feels good to be around friends and to be in a country that I am familiar with because it is my home. Even though it’s a long way from Toronto, it’s still home and I can still relate to being in this atmosphere. Like I have said, it is enjoyable when you can train with friends and work on what you need to work on, along with the convenience of being in your own country.
RNO: You are famous for being the youngest keeper to have played in the MLS and you started your professional career in Toronto. Even given that you are still a very young player, does it feel like you have come full circle back to Canada?
David Monsalve: It’s tough, you know, because you feel like you are making a progression when you go over to Europe. But I do feel like I can get what I need here as well and that I can develop here. The coaching staff is great, as well as the technical staff. I’m looking forward to progressing and maturing as a player.
RNO: How did the deal to sign with FC Edmonton come about?
David Monsalve: I think the situation they had with the injuries to their goalkeepers and everything opened up the spot and luckily I was available – both for them and me I think. So that’s how the situation came about and here we are.
RNO: Your previous club was Finnish side FC Inter Turku, with whom you won a Finnish Cup. Was coming back to Canada when your contract with Inter Turku expired always something you had in mind?
David Monsalve: Not necessarily. I think everybody dreams about playing at the top levels in Europe. But the way the situation worked out, the opportunity presented itself and I took full advantage of it. I was without a club for a few months and that’s always tough, so I jumped on the opportunity as soon as I could and I’m looking forward to working hard and progressing here as well.
RNO: It always seems like it’s the keepers that have it much harder than other players when they are looking for a new club. Each club only carries 2 or 3 keepers on their rosters. Mentally, how did you maintain that sense of patience until the right opportunity opened up?
David Monsalve: It was extremely difficult. Whenever you are without a club it is difficult mentally and physically because you aren’t getting the training you are supposed to be getting. I think I did a decent job of keeping myself physically and mentally ready. I went to Colombia for the last 3-4 months and I trained there with a team and kept myself motivated.
RNO: The press release announcing your signing stated you will be backing up veteran keeper Rein Baart and also positioned you as someone the team is comfortable with as a number one keeper in the short and long term. Do you feel that Edmonton is going to present you with a good opportunity to play regularly?
David Monsalve: I hope so. That’s the intention. I didn’t come here to sit on a bench or to watch another guy play. My intentions are to go out there and do as good of a job as I can. And hopefully that will be enough for the coaching staff to give me opportunities to go out there and play. Everybody that plays professionally should want to be playing. If you don’t, I don’t know why are you doing it. So my goal is to win a spot and play as much as I can.
RNO: You are still a young keeper at 22. What did you learn while playing abroad in Europe and what are some of the aspects of your game that you would still like to improve upon?
David Monsalve: Being in Europe, you learn a lot. There is a ton of politics involved in football, as well as in anything else I’m sure. Unfortunately, you learn that, but because of that you learn to stay mentally strong and you learn to work hard on your football because that is all you can do. Opportunities will present themselves and when they do, you have to be ready to take full advantage of them. In Europe, the competition is incredible. There are keepers everywhere and there is always someone looking to take your spot. I think I learned that when I had the opportunity to play, I had to work as hard as I could to maintain a position and to keep playing. As for things that I can still improve upon and get better as a goalkeeper, I think everything. There is always room for improvement. I’m still young, like you said, and I’m still gaining experience. And I think that as long as I keep a good positive mental attitude, I will be okay.
RNO: Dutch Head Coaches are all the rage in Canada's professional environments these days. What has been your impression of the FC Edmonton coaching staff so far?
David Monsalve: It’s been good. When I first got here I soon realized that the style they are playing here was similar to the one I was playing in Finland. My coach in Finland was also Dutch and in my short time with Toronto FC during their preseason, my time with Aron Winter and Bob de Klerk was obviously another experience in which I got more familiar with the Dutch style of play. So I’m comfortable with the style and I like it. And it seems to be working for everyone, so hopefully we can keep that going.
RNO: Does a Dutch approach to the game inform the way you need to play as a keeper?
David Monsalve: It does a lot. They like to play out of the back, so for a keeper like me who likes to play with his feet, it fits me well and gives me a lot of touches on the ball. It was gives me a lot of control over the game and it keeps me alert and concentrated. It fits me well and I’m looking forward to it.
RNO: In many ways, FC Edmonton is actually the most Canadian of all the professional clubs in Canada in terms of the number of Canadians playing for the team. How important is for Canada to have a club like FC Edmonton for the development of Canadian players?
David Monsalve: It’s very important. When you have a club like this that is willing to give opportunities to Canadians, the Canadian National Teams and Canadian football in general will benefit. It really helps the development of our young players and we’re only going to reap the benefits later. I think it is very positive. And I think it is very refreshing, like you said, because not all of the clubs in Canada are as willing to give many opportunities to Canadians. It’s a good thing.
RNO: Like you, Kyle Porter, Shaun Saiko and Eddy Sidra are well known players who have represented Canada internationally at a number of different levels. How important is it for a new club like FC Edmonton to have players with type of experience as it works to build a winning tradition?
David Monsalve: It’s really important. The experience that the players you have mentioned - as well as myself – bring is important. I think it brings the level of play up and it only helps to push everyone to that level. I think it also helps the National Teams because we are training regularly and playing regularly at a top level. I think both the club and the national teams benefit from the situation.
RNO: What have been your impressions so far as to how the people of Edmonton have taken to the team and to professional soccer?
David Monsalve: It’s been pretty good. We have decent turnouts. People are very excited. The staff and the front office and everyone seem to be very excited about the team and seem very positive in pushing it forward. I think it is a very good thing. The community here is very involved and the team is doing camps and what not to get its name out there. I think Edmonton is doing a good job in terms of having a professional team in their city.